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NEWS | Aug. 7, 2020

1-623d Field Artillery helps qualify fellow Soldiers with live fire

By Maj. Stephen Martin, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

Soldiers from the 1-623r Field Artillery Battalion linked up with Advanced Leadership Course (ALC) students from the 238th Regimental Training Institute on Fort Knox, Kentucky to conduct a live fire training exercise with M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) as a part of their annual training mission and the 238th battalion’s certification process August 5th.

“It's so beneficial to have the students in the class out here a part of the live fire part of the class,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Gocke, Battalion commander for 1st Battalion 623rd Field Artillery Regiment. “We can make sure that everyone gets a hands-on approach to the training and that also helps us certify as a battalion. We're able to help train those future leaders that are going to come back to us.”

According to, HIMARS are a full-spectrum, combat-proven, all-weather, 24/7, lethal and responsive, wheeled precision strike weapons system. Operational with a crew of three Soldiers and equipped with a launch pad of either six-guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) rockets or one Army Tactical Missile System, the HIMARS has proven to be an effective, precise and accessible weapon during times of combat.

Sgt 1st Class Robert Simpson, a Tompkinsville, Kentucky native that reclassed from a cook to artillery to be able to remain with his home unit explained that the Table VI Certification process includes three Soldiers per launcher crew: Driver, Gunner and Crew Chief.

"The first time I felt a rocket go down range, the adrenaline! I was addicted." Simpson said.

While the 1-623rd conducts HIMARS live fire missions annually as a part of their standard training, this year’s collaboration with ALC students from the 238th has only happened 1-time prior at Camp Atterbury, Indiana in 2015.

“We had several of our launcher chiefs, that are in the ALC class, so it was a mutual beneficial exercise,” said Staff Sergeant Trenton Guffey, Fire Direction Control Section Chief, Bravo Battery. “It’s helping our crews get certified and it gives the 238th an added training element.”

Guffey has a vast reach of instruction within the schoolhouse as he ensures training of the unit’s lower enlisted Soldiers, training and certification of the Platoon Operation crews, as well as the training and certification of all the unit’s Launcher crews. Growing up in Monticello, Ky. he is one of many Soldiers with a career loyal to the unit’s legacy.

The bond between the 1-623d Battalion and the 238th RTI has been an ongoing and close-knit entity for some time. The 623d has units deeply rooted in Glasgow, Monticello and Tompkinsville, Kentucky communities. Many of its Soldiers today were raised in those communities and had their sights set on joining their local Kentucky Army National Guard unit. Many students and instructors in the 238th, like Guffey, originated their careers with the 1-623d.

“It's great for us,” said Gocke. “We can interact with the students and learn from each other -- several of these are our own Soldiers -- For them to be out here with us. It's like they're still with us, even though they're doing their military education, but they're still out here live firing with us.”

It is because of the generational relationship between the two units that a training mission like this could occur.

“Anytime we can get troops out here and actually get hands on and actually do this, it’s training for war,” said Sergeant Major Aaron Lester, G3 Operations SGM and CSM 238th Regiment. “It makes it more realistic. So that's what I'm passionate about, being able to do realistic training.”

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